Take a moment to consider the scope of these quick episodes in Abram’s life. We last saw Abram believing God’s promise. The next time that we are told of God speaking to Abram at least 13 years will have past. God’s timing is not our timing. We don’t see things the way He does. Walking with God one of the qualities we most need to practice is patience.
However, the question we must ask is: did it have to be so long? Abram is not exactly a great example of patience in Genesis 16. God has told him he will father a great people. Abram believes God, and we are told God counts him as righteous due to his trust. But we have to say that his trust goes only so far. Abram and Sarai quickly take God’s work and plans into their own hands and begin to do what they can to help make it happen. Sarai gives her Egyptian slave to Abram as a wife and he has his first-born son through her.
Take a minute to consider Hagar. Before she became a part of Paul’s allegory of the slavery of legalistic religion vs. the true Gospel message she was a real girl. A slave. She was likely acquired by Sarai when Abram was pretending she was his sister. She was property of a woman back when all women were property. She had no future. One cannot blame her for seeing Ishmael as a source of improving her lot in life.
The Abram we see here is far from commendable. He doesn’t trust God to do what He promised. He betrays his wife (even if it was at her suggestion) and sleeps with a slave girl. When she does conceive, he lets his wife mistreat her to the point where she takes his son and runs away. He is hardly heroic.
But we also get to know God better. He is the God who sees. He sees every one of His creations. There are no “little people” in God’s plan. The nature of the Bible message means that we often focus on key moments and key figures, but God watches everyone. He cares about every person. He is reaching into every life; calling people back to Him. God does not see the slave girl as a toss-away life.
And, the question we have to ask between 16:16 and 17:1 is, would Abram have saved himself 13 years—time for his son to grow into a man—if he had just waited on the Lord? If he could have seen things as God sees them? How often does our impatience cause God to force us to learn patience?